Take a couple of three-year-olds to the fair, and see what happens.
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Trent grinned as he watched Benji crawl out of the latest ride the twins had talked him into. Danny and Sammy were both starting to get cranky, so Trent knew this was the last ride for the night. He looked at the other three and realized the kids weren’t the only ones that looked tired.
“Alright, everyone. It’s time to head for the hotel.” Danny started to whine about being forced to leave, and Trent smiled. “It’s definitely time to head out.”
He turned to thank Benji and was a little surprised to find a look of disappointment. “I thought you’d be ready to get rid of four old guys and two rowdy kids.”
Benji shrugged and the look only deepened. “Yeah, it’s cool. I gotta go anyway.”
A huge drop of rain splattered on the sidewalk. Another followed. Darrin and Josh grabbed the kids and started to the truck, but Trent sensed something else in Benji. He felt a kinship with the youngster that he couldn’t place. The look of resignation was Trent’s final clue. He knew from personal experience that he had to word this carefully or Benji wouldn’t tell him the truth.
“Looks like it’s fixin’ to pour. Do you want a ride—somewhere?”
Benji glanced at his watch and panic flicked across his face. But any emotion was hidden by the time he met Trent’s gaze. “Nah. It’ll be fine.”
He glanced around but this was a look Trent remembered wearing himself. It was being afraid you couldn’t find a safe place to sleep for the night. It was a feeling Trent wouldn’t wish on anyone else. He scrutinized Benji for a minute or so and then made his decision.
“We have a hotel room for tonight. You can sleep on the couch if you’d like.”
The expression on Benji’s face changed to suspicious. “I dunno…”
A few more large drops hit around them. It was about to pour. He didn’t have time to soft talk this kid into using them as a safe shelter.
“Look, kid. I’ve been on the streets before and had to do some things I hope you never have to do. No one is going to hurt you. But I’ll guarantee you that we’ll watch you like hawks, ‘cause those two babies are the most precious things we have in our lives.”
“You were on the streets? You don’t look like it.”
Trent grinned. “It’s been a few years, and some of the scars are in places that I wouldn’t want to show you. But I was, and we’ll just have to agree that neither of us trusts the other one.” The huge drops started smashing into the concrete surrounding them. Benji’s shoulders were already wet and Trent’s patience was wearing thin.
“Look. You can get your ass in the pickup, or you can try to find a dry place to hide for another night. It’s your choice, but I’m not going to stand here and get soaked.”
Trent turned and walked toward the pickup. He really wanted to break into a dead run like the people around him were doing, but he wanted to give Benji at least a few extra seconds to think. Trent let out a sigh of relief when he heard quick footsteps coming up behind him. He turned, just in time to get punched in the nose.
Trent dropped in pain, his world getting smaller and smaller until…
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